The Iowa Department of Transportation is shifting the way it delivers those pithy safety reminders to motorists on the 80-some overhead message boards on Iowa’s interstates and highways.
The Monday Messages program is now called Roadside Chats and the new slogans will appear on Fridays instead of Mondays.
DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry explains the motivation for the move. “When we moved to Friday, that’s the second-highest fatal crash day of the week and it leads into the weekend, which statistically, Saturday is our highest fatal day and Sunday is our third-highest fatal day,” Henry says. “The other benefit is we’re catching both weekday commuter traffic as well as those heading out for their weekend plans.”
The messages have to be brief as there are only three lines available on the message boards, with 18 characters per line. Sometimes, they’re very upfront about buckling up or avoiding distractions, but other messages may be mash-ups of movie quotes, song lyrics, and other pop culture references.
The goal all along, Henry says, is to start conversations about traffic safety. “So we kind of mix it up because different styles appeal to different people. The cheeky messages catch the attention of some and the more straightforward ones catch the attention of others,” Henry says. “There’s a group of about nine of us who sit in a room and talk about things that we feel will appeal to others and we craft messages from there.”
Iowans who would like to see their own traffic safety-oriented ideas up in lights can contribute their three-line messages to the DOT online. “If they have an idea, they can go to ZeroFatalitiesIowa.com and they can submit their idea and we will review those,” Henry says. “If we do choose their message, we have a blogpost and a social media post that go along with our messages each Friday and we’ll recognize them in those posts.”
There are four primary categories about changing our driving behaviors which the messages should zero in on: Slow Down, Drive Sober, Focus On The Road, and Buckle Up.